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April 5, 2014

Scrimmage Impressions

North Carolina's football program played its second spring scrimmage Friday night at Greensboro's Grimsley High School, as well over a thousand people jammed into Whirlies Stadium to see the Tar Heels in action.

"We got to see some guys make some plays. But we had way too many penalties. Guys not playing smart in a situation. I think the defense stood out again today and made some plays, and they gave up some plays that they can't give up. But overall I thought they played well, played hard," said UNC head coach Larry Fedora to GoHeels.com and other reporters.

Mitch Trubisky took the reigns with the starters and had a solid outing, and Fedora reiterated that it's an open quarterback battle between he and Marquise Williams, though Williams would get the starting nod if the season began today.

"Right now Marquise would still be taking the reps with the ones right now, but we haven't done anything (as far as declaring a 2014 starter)," said Fedora. "Those guys are still competing just like we are at left tackle, and right guard, and left defensive end. All those things. We're trying to create as much competition at every position on the field we have."

Naturally, Fedora and the UNC coaches are promoting the fierce competition as a way of making everyone better heading into the fall.

And while there was plenty of jawing back and forth during the scrimmage, and even some players ejected, including starters Tim Scott and Quinshad Davis for getting into a scuffle, Fedora and the Tar Heel staff likes the fire they're showing this spring.

"In the spring especially, we're trying to get these guys (competing)," Fedora replied. "The thing I don't have to do, I don't have to get them to compete. They're getting after it. They're getting after each others, and then you see them afterwards and they love each other. When they're out there on the field though, they're going to get after each other, and yeah, we want that."

The biggest overall team goal this spring is to build quality depth at as many positions as possible, and it's been fortunate that the team hasn't had a huge number of injuries this spring aside of some players who had offseason ailments and haven't been practicing.

"I don't know if I feel comfortable (with the depth), but we're trying to create as much depth as possible. We're getting a lot of guys some reps who have never had reps before. So we're trying to build some depth at each position," Fedora said.

Last year's scrimmage in Greensboro was cancelled due to weather---the second time in as many years that UNC had to cancel an out-of-town scrimmage due to weather.

Fortunately, Friday night's scrimmage was played under fair skies with optimal conditions in the low 70's, allowing the players to perform without any weather-related issues.

For Fedora and the entire UNC program, it was another excellent chance to get their faces and their brand out into the public, where they hope they excited their loyal fans and maybe even added a few new ones.

"For us, its an opportunity to go on the road. And that's the way we treat this," Fedora said. "We've got a game on the road. They've got to go to a new place, a new locker room. A new field, all those things. And for everybody else, it's a chance to get in front of our fans in this area. It's a chance to get in front of the high school coaches in this area that do such a great job around here, and then the high school players."

"I think people are excited when we go on the road and they get a chance to see what these guys are doing in the spring and how hard they are working."

One of the big attractions to Friday's scrimmage was hometown hero T.J. Logan, who won three state titles in his prep days at nearby Northern Guilford.

Logan, as well as Elijah Hood, put together multiple productive carries, though Fedora was frustrated with the number of penalties and mistakes along the offensive line.

"He (Logan) is making progress," said Fedora. "He's still a freshman. As much as he played last year, he's still a freshman in college. And so he's still got a lot to learn, and he's getting better every day. He's going to be a really good player.

"There were some situations where we moved the ball, and we made some plays," the third-year UNC coach continued. "We had enough penalties in the offensive line---you don't have any continuity when you do that. So you keep shooting yourself in the foot, you're going to go backwards all the time."

Here's some additional observations by some of the media in attendance at Friday's scrimmage, as well as some Tar Heel Illustrated subscribers who made their way to the game.

"Football in April wasn't a hard sell Friday night as several thousand people wandered into Jamieson Stadium to watch Carolina work out under the lights. The traveling Tar Heels have tried this before with soggy results, but this time it worked out for everyone as UNC managed to get through a spring practice before the storms hit and everyone in Greensboro with a light blue shirt showed up to watch. Beyond that, it's hard to say just what anyone could glean from football in April. Larry Fedora, the Carolina coach, liked what he saw."

---Ed Hardin, Greensboro News and Record

"Friday's scrimmage wasn't a true Blue-White game, as it was more about offense versus defense. The practice offered quarterbacks Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky both the opportunity to go against the first-team defense, and both showed off their skills. Trubisky's accuracy is undeniable: he threaded the needle several times, including throws to T.J. Thorpe and Bug Howard amid a sea of defenders. While he's a tremendous rollout passer, Trubisky is also not afraid to tuck and run if a play breaks down. Williams, meanwhile, drew the biggest cheers of the night for a strike down the field to Mack Hollins and continued to show off his feet in getting outside the tackle box on occasion."

---Turner Walston, GoHeels.com

"I am a believer that we do have a QB competition. Marquise (Williams) completed a beautiful pass maybe 40 or so yards downfield. It was impressive as he eluded the rush, kept his eyes downfield, stepped up and delivered the ball in the exact spot to allow the receiver to make an over the shoulder catch---the outside shoulder at that. However, he was a bit sporadic. I don't see him being the type QB to complete 70 percent of his passes I think 60 percent is to be expected. He missed some wide open guys and some throws were flat out off the mark. He's definitely looking to be a leader he's constantly talking to the guys and is involved with the OL on the sideline. Trubisky, seemingly, didn't get to throw it as much as Marquise actually one of his early throws (a screen) was picked off beautifully I may add by Shakeel Rashad. Shakeel tapped it to himself, caught it, then ran and flipped backwards into the endzone it was impressive. Anyway, Mitch did not throw it much but when he did the ball had zip. The rush didn't really get to him as far as him having happy feet or rushing throws he was a cool customer. He had a couple nice runs as well and to me looks like he may be 'thicker' than Marquise looks like Marquise has lost some weight."

---'Maxout,' poster on Tar Heel Illustrated

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